A few months from now will mark one year that I have been out of youth ministry. As I have attempted to prayerfully considered my next step in ministry I have considered the path of lead pastor. As part of that search as well as to provide resources for others that are going through similar experiences I have interviewed three pastors that have made the transition from youth pastor to lead pastor. The first pastor I had the opportunity to interview was Mark Hurt. I know Mark from when he was my youth pastor at Orleans Wesleyan Church. Mark is currently the lead pastor at Columbus Free Methodist Church. You can contact him through his Facebook or the churches website.
1. Was Being A Youth Pastor Something You Thought You Would Always Do? If Yes, What Changed Your Mind?
I am sure there was some point in my life when I thought I would be a youth pastor forever. But truthfully, I knew that was not going to be the case. I am not sure I ever saw myself as a senior pastor while I was in youth ministry. I went to conference after conference in which the senior pastor was viewed as the devil. So, I didn’t want be the bad guy. BTW – those conferences should really stop portraying senior pastors in such a bad light 😊
I knew I had a call to full-time ministry in my life. I was certain of that. Youth ministry felt like a logical fit at the time, I loved it. I loved studying about. I still love helping youth pastors today and talking about youth ministry dynamics. However, somewhere I knew the call was to full-time service in discipleship and empowering leaders. So it was not youth ministry alone I was connected to, but kingdom building. I feel like I am using church words now.
The transition came over time from youth to lead pastor. Each of the churches I served at the senior pastor left while I was youth pastor. Most times it was not healthy transition. Many times I was the only constant that remained. I would serve dual roles of lead pastor/shepherd and youth pastor. I remember my last interview for a youth pastor gig in TX. Large church, massive youth facility, a youth budget of more than I made in year. All the those items I had been dreaming about, yet my heart was not in it. I ended up not going there and my next ministry position was in the role of a lead pastor.
2. What Things Did You Learned From Youth Ministry That Have Helped You In Being A Better Lead Pastor?
Creativity and leadership. In youth ministry there was constant need to be cutting edge. I had to stay on top of technology and the latest cultural phenomenons. My students were living in this rapidly changing world and so I needed to know what they were dealing with. This connection with culture pushed me into a realm I knew little about, artsy and creative. I had art class in high school because I had too, not because of my creative ability. However, as I rubbed shoulders with such a creative world I was amazed at the creativity and non-conformity. There was a strong push to be original. So I attempted to transfer that to ministry and found success.
This success has came both as lead pastor and youth pastor. I had to be creative in youth ministry because each generation brought in a new slice of culture. I choose to be creative as a lead pastor because I do not want the people God has entrusted me with to forget the world in which they live. Art, technology, music are beautiful, but if left in the hands of non-christians can be ugly and cruel. I choose to engage an “older” crowd through a world they already are engaged in.
Because I am not creative I knew right off I needed help in creativity. Although sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact, I cannot do it all nor can I always (if ever) do it better. I empowered students to run youth ministry and gave them freedom to do so. I am amazed at how many students I served so little time with are in full-time Christian service today. This realization of needing help and empowerment is even more true as a lead pastor. The ministry is much more broad and I simply don’t have the talent nor time to do it all. My role is to encourage and empower leaders of all ages.
3. Being A Current Lead Pastor, What Skills Do You Wish You Had Learned Before Transitioning?
I am not sure there are particular skills. There would be too many and the list just keeps growing. Here is what I can say. I wish I would have taken on an internship or assistant to the pastor role of a larger church than I had ever served before. What I know and knew is from experience in small to medium sized churches. I feel like there is an abundance of experience and knowledge I am missing out on to help a church climb over certain humps. It will be learning by fire as we grow.
There are many issues in there area of administration I feel lacking on. Though I was a staff pastor and have now led numerous employees over the last 8 years I still feel inadequate as a lead staff member or boss. How do you hold a healthy vision casting meeting? I have learned through experience, I think, but it would have nice to sit in on those meetings. The vision was handed down to me rather myself playing a part. (Which I can still have a tendency to do) What are adequate ways of disciplining staff for moral issues, but also the more grey area of poor workmanship?
4. How Has Being A Youth Pastor Yourself Help You Communicate With Your Youth Pastor/Youth Leaders?
I know the struggles and frustrations. Though sometimes I am the frustration, the bad guy. Sometimes it is more hindrance than help because when I see the youth ministry failing I believe if only they do it my way it will bounce back. I check myself often on this and even say take my advice or don’t it is ok either way.
The best way it has helped is that fact I care and see the vitality of youth ministry. I want to give the resources they need, support whenever possible. I show up at youth events, volunteer on occasion. I think being a youth pastor has helped keep students engaged on Sundays. In each of my lead pastor positions we have had more students on a Sunday morning than at youth group. This was never the case when I was youth pastor. Many students showed up at youth group, but were never seen at church. Whether this is because they can relate to me and how we structure the service or because of changing culture I do not know.
5. What Is Your Favorite Aspect Of Each Position?
The last one is simple.
Youth Ministry – instant gratification. It was much more simple to mold, mentor and see rapid life change in a student than an adult. An adult is a longer term investment and has many backfiring moments. Students would struggle, particularly at the ages of 16 and 18, but they seemed easier to mold. They had a passion that spread like wildfire and ignited my soul too. Adults can be lethargic and at times like moving a mountain.
Lead Pastor – vision casting. When I was in youth ministry I directed only my ministry and cast vision for it. Sometimes the vision was counter to the lead pastor and had be adjusted, many times at the expense of a growing and healthy youth ministry. As a lead pastor I am able to bring the team on board ask them for them input. Where is their ministry going, where is the church ministry going? How can we make a difference in this community for the kingdom? I am able to cast the vision and help mold the vision. I am a big picture leader and personality so it fits who I am.
Like this interview? Find it helpful? Come back next week for a video interview with Health Mullikin.